"The Partner Online Technical Community is a valuable tool that we have been using to support our clients more efficiently." - Barbara Bell, Senior Manager – Sales and Delivery of Microsoft Dynamics GP, Wipfli
Wipfli LLP is a multi-discipline professional services firm and ranks among the leading accounting and consulting firms in the United States. As a Microsoft® Gold Competency partner, Wipfli supports many small and medium-sized businesses with services related to the deployment, management, and customization of Microsoft Dynamics® GP. Rising support costs and a desire for faster response time to customers’ support cases encouraged Wipfli to evaluate online support forums. The company participated in Microsoft’s Partner Online Technical Community (POTC) pilot program in 2009 and soon started realizing significant value. By using POTC forums, Wipfli is able to reduce their reliance on support tickets by 33%, thus avoiding an estimated minimum of U.S.$27,000 in annual support costs.
Wipfli LLP is a Microsoft® Gold Competency partner headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, with offices throughout the United States. The company provides accounting and business consulting services to more than 30,000 clients. With its 50 Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs), Wipfli holds a Gold Competency in Microsoft’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. The company also holds a Silver Competency for Microsoft’s Server Platform and Portals and Collaboration solutions.
|It definitely pays to search [the forums]. About 60% of the time a similar issue has already been resolved or answered. Not having to wait for an answer saves a lot of time.|
Microsoft Dynamics GP Consultant
Wipfli provides solution and support to more than 250 Microsoft Dynamics® GP customers, particularly in the distribution and the healthcare industries. Small and medium-sized businesses constitute almost 75% of this customer base.
Historically, when a Dynamics GP customer approached with a service request, Wipfli would respond by assigning its MCP-certified consultants to collaborate and arrive at a solution. The consultants also relied on Partner Source and Microsoft Dynamics GP Knowledge Base articles to search for the right answer, but observed that searching for an answer on the internet was not always the quickest and most reliable option. The information from these online sources sometimes failed to keep up with the new product versions, did not provide answers to specific customizations that customers often requested, and often required extra time doing research.
As a last resort, to provide their customers a timely response, Wipfli would open a support case with Microsoft, included in their licensed Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and the Microsoft Partner Advantage Plus Service Plan. The company was entitled to a fixed amount of partner advisory and product support benefits from Microsoft; however, these were used quickly, and often additional support was needed to cater to their large customer base. This required the purchase of support incident packs to supplement their existing partner benefit entitlement, which, over time, became very expensive.
Wipfli was looking for ways to reduce their reliance on costly support packs and personal support that took up consultant time in research, yet achieve a quick and guaranteed turnaround to customers’ enquiries and break-fix service requests. In 2009, Wipfli enrolled in a pilot program for Microsoft’s Partner Online Technical Community (POTC). The forums offered Wipfli unlimited and free online technical support via the message boards for all Microsoft products (many with its own forum). Barbara Bell, Senior Manager-Sales and Delivery of Microsoft Dynamics GP at Wipfli says, “The Partner Online Technical Community is another tool that we have available to help answer clients’ questions, which can provide an improved response time.”
|Figure 1: Example of Wipfli’s participation in the Partner Online Technical Community|
Through the POTC, Wipfli is guaranteed a response from a Microsoft engineer to customers’ product, developer, and presales or advisory related questions. Occasionally other partners contribute a response, which is then confirmed by a Microsoft engineer. Participating partners can also be assured that they are not exposing any confidential customer information as the forums are not publicly indexed and are restricted to the Microsoft Partner Network community.
Wipfli soon started relying regularly on the Dynamics GP forum to review and post any break-fix enquiries, and to occasionally post questions in other community forums related to Microsoft SQL Server®, Microsoft Dynamics AX, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Wipfli estimates that six core users regularly access the forums ten to twelve times a week to submit questions raised by customers and help resolve issues by relying on the experience of Microsoft and other partners. Apart from break-fix requests, Wipfli also relies on the POTC forums to find answers to any technical or business enquiries – a few each week – such as when a client desires to add a new module or integrate data with other products. Thus, by using the POTC forums, Wipfli has been able to make their issue resolution process more efficient. Bell adds, “The Partner Online Technical Community is a valuable tool that we have been using to support our clients more efficiently.”Benefits
Lower support costs
By relying on the POTC forums, Wipfli has been able to avoid using up their support incidents and advisory hours entitlement, and avoided or reduced the purchase of additional support packs. Over a three month period, the number of Dynamics GP support cases that were raised by Wipfli reduced from 120 (when POTC was not in use) to 80 (with the team using POTC) – a 33% savings in support incidents. “On an average, we have decreased the number of support incidents by about 10 per month;” confirms Donny Kensmoe, Microsoft Dynamics GP Consultant at Wipfli who is responsible for technical and application support and the integration of the ERP product with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Kensmoe further adds, “Now, we open up a support incident only if we require immediate assistance, or when an issue cannot be resolved on the forum.” By decreasing the number of support incidents, Wipfli saves at least U.S.$27,000 each year by avoiding the cost of purchasing add-on support packs.
Achieve a fast response
|We do have the confidence that Microsoft is going to review the responses that are received from the community, and confirm or correct them if needed.|
Senior Manager - Sales and Delivery of Microsoft Dynamics GP
The POTC forums also help Wipfli get a faster resolution to clients’ issues online without the need to spend time waiting on a phone call. The company has experienced an improved solution turnaround time, from about 24 hours when POTC was just started, to only about an hour now. Kensmoe explains, “Previously I would be hesitant to use POTC for issues that require quick resolution, but now I have more confidence.”
Over time and with more partners actively participating in the forum, the database of issues and resolutions in the POTC forums has increased significantly. Also, with a continued flow of new discussions, the content remains very current and covers a broader range of topics than what is available in knowledge base articles. This allows Wipfli to search and find answers from the forums each time before posting a new question. Kensmoe explains the benefit, “It definitely pays to search [the forums]. About 60% of the time a similar issue has already been resolved or answered. Not having to wait for an answer saves a lot of time.” The sales team also benefits from the search capabilities. As Bell explains, “If we are working with a client, the response time is much faster compared to before [POTC], which would be as much as two days. With POTC it is quicker since the information is more readily available.”Guaranteed quality of response
As a Gold Competency partner, Wipfli also enjoys a guaranteed response time for product support and presales queries that are posted on these forums; although their own experience suggests that the actual response time has been even quicker. Every post is assured a response from Microsoft engineers who are specialists in their specific product or solution categories. The community aspect of the forums helps Wipfli review best practices that are in place by other partners. Many of their questions often get quick resolutions from within the partner community and are confirmed by Microsoft specialists. Because they are experts in their topics, having a Microsoft engineer respond assures Wipfli of getting a trustworthy solution. Bell says, “We do have the confidence that Microsoft is going to review the responses that are received from the community, and confirm or correct them if needed.”
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